Category Archives: Uncategorized

Course: Cyberliterature

Poster_CLIT210_PowerPoint (1).jpg

I am about to close the books on my very first teaching experience as a principal instructor at the University of Alberta. This Cyberliterature class was a fantastic challenge, a great opportunity to expand my horizons on various forms of electronic literatures, as well as a chance to unpack some of the internet culture that we usually take for granted (memes, rage comics, fan fiction and so on). One of the objectives that I had for this particular incarnation of the class was to create a more culturally diverse corpus that previous years, and I think that the week dedicated to cell phone novels and visual novels worked great in this regard. I also experimented with integrating VR material as a text to be discussed in class, which was difficult a first to get going due to the technical requirements of this technology, but turned out to be well worth it.

20170405_112504

Thanks again to the staff in MLCS for their trust and this opportunity.

 

CFP – Digital Narratives Around the World

Just a quick word to share the CFP of an upcoming symposium held at the University of Alberta on digital narratives. I have helped Prof. Astrid Ensslin putting this project together over the past few weeks, and I am looking forward to meet with the greater Albertan digital fiction community in May. Check it out if you are in the area, especially if you are doing research on digital fiction or game studies.

Here is an excerpt from the CFP.

“The University of Alberta, in association with the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies (KIAS), would like to acknowledge and help further develop this interest by creating the possibility of researchers and students across campus and beyond to join forces and create a scholarly network dedicated to the support and the dissemination of cross-disciplinary research on digital narratives around the world. A first step towards the implementation of this project is a one-day symposium that will bring together researchers from the University of Alberta along with external collaborators, where participants will share their research and ideas through individual or team presentations. The objectives of this event are to identify the University of Alberta’s strengths in the field and possible synergies between research groups, to establish a roadmap for the planning of future events and projects, as well as to investigate the needs and provisions for current and future graduate students in this area.”

(Re)Blog – Dynamics of Mobile Gaming

I have not posted anything original in a while, which I blame on a busy schedule. I recently came across an old blog that I used to maintain as part of Prof. Rockwell’s seminar on Japanese video game culture a few years back. Some of these posts still seem relevant today, so I though it could be worthwhile to share updated versions of them again on this platform. Enjoy!

______________

The practice of mobile gaming is a difficult subject to frame and situate since its platforms are meant to be very flexible. However, it is possible to make sense of this particular form of gaming through the framework presented by Ito in Mobilizing the Imagination in Everyday Play, specifically, through the concept of hyper-socialization, a form of socialization mediated by the formation of a knowledge economy based on media content and shared amongst its participants.

Cohen’s text was very informative as it brought forward case studies of mobile game design experiments that gives us a clearer idea of what elements to consider while designing a mobile game for the Japanese market. He identifies the terms Personal (space of intimacy), Portable (mobility of the device) and Pedestrian (nagara gaming) as the main concepts that frames the experience of mobile phone entertainment in Japan, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t look at portable console use in the same light. Indeed, from the dual-screen DS to the portable media device that was the PSP, mobile consoles in Japan have always been a save haven for gaming experiences that focus on the intimacy of the ludic experience, the imaginary creation of a restricted relationship with the screen. Those comprise of visual novels, brain training games and role-playing games. Interestingly, those seem to also be the experiences that define the PC as a gaming space. Visual novels are often released on PC first, and then ported on mobile consoles. The PC in Japan also hosts a number of long-running franchises of real-time strategy games that are mostly unknown in the West. However, the mobile consoles have also given momentum to completely different genre, one of those―the kyoutou games (coop games), sometimes called hunting games―requires repurposing the console as a vehicle for socialization in the same vein Ito talks about card games as tools for hyper-socialization.

 374654
Summer 2013, Kyoutou Sensei promotes the joys of collaborative battle games in the first of many commercials.

On mobile devices, we have games like Monster Hunter, Soul Sacrifice, Valhalla Nights and others that inspire strong community of players who meet in cafés with groups or random strangers. Even games with very low level of communal engagement like Puzzles and Dragons (by far the most popular mobile game) integrate a lot of social elements: players must be connected with other users in order to lean their strength to overcome challenging bosses. Such games are very customizable themselves and mobile game communities like the one associated with Valkyria Chronicle D is very intricate where players have developed hierarchical relationship with rights and duties in relation to what the game requires users to do in order to achieve a communal goal. There is plenty of space for remix and mediated but meaningful social encounters through mobile gaming from its most intricate form (Monster Hunter) to its most nagara (Puzzles and Dragons). However, I must differ from Ito’s perspective when she identifies hyper-socialization with contestation, there just doesn’t seem to be actual rebellion against a given text in the media mix, only reinterpretation and adaptation.

Works Cited

Ito, Mizuko. ¨Mobilizing the Imagination of Everyday Play: The Case of Japanese Media Mixes¨ in International Handbook of Children, Media and Culture. Edited by Sonia Livingstone and Kirsten Drotner. SAGE Publishing,  2008.

Cohen, Einat. ¨Portable Gaming in Japan: Redefining Urban Play Space and Changing Gameplay¨. University of Haifa, 2010.

 

 

CFP – Replaying Japan 2017: The Strong Museum of Play, USA

The CFP for the next Replaying Japan conference is out. This time, the event will be held at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester (USA), and will be themed around the concept of “Transmedia and Story in Japanese Games”. Here is the call for paper, which you can also find at the official conference webpage.

If you are interested in Japanese video game studies and you are based in North America, please consider sending an abstract (in either English or Japanese).

____________

Replaying Japan 2017: 5th International Japan Game Studies Conference

“Transmedia and Story in Japanese Games”

The 5th International Conference on Japan Game Studies will be held at The Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester, USA, from August 21 to 23 2017.

Proposals in Japanese are most welcome! <日本語での発表要旨も受け付けます。>
This conference, co-hosted by The Strong and Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Games and Media and MAGIC Center, is organized in collaboration with the Institute of East Asian Studies at Leipzig University, the Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies, the University of Alberta and DiGRA Japan. This conference, the fifth collaboratively organized event, focuses broadly on Japanese game culture, education, and industry. It aims to bring together a wide range of researchers and creators from many different countries to present and exchange their work.

The main theme of the conference this year will be Transmedia and Story in Japanese Games.

We invite researchers and students to submit paper proposals related to this theme. We also invite papers on other topics relating to games, game culture, education, and the Japanese game industry from the perspectives of humanities, social sciences, business, or education. We also encourage poster/demonstration proposals of games or interactive projects related to these themes. For previous approaches related to these topics, see the 2016 program:http://home.uni-leipzig.de/jgames/replayingjapan2016/program/.

Please send anonymized abstracts of no more than 500 words in English or Japanese via email to <replayingjapan@gmail.com> before January 15, 2017. Figures, tables and references, which do not count towards the 500 words, may be included on a second page. The following information should be in the accompanying email message:

Type of submission (poster/demonstration or paper):
Title of submission:
Name of author(s):
Affiliation(s):
Address(es):
Email address(es):

Notification of acceptance will be sent out by March 3, 2017.
While the language of this conference will be English, limited communication assistance will be available for those who cannot present in English.

For more information about Replaying Japan 2017, visit the conference home page (replaying.jp) or write to replayingjapan@gmail.com.

L’objet Pokémon à l’âge de la réalité augmentée

maxresdefault

J’ai eu l’opportunité de traduire et de publier le premier texte de Nakazawa Shin’ichi sur le jeu vidéo au courant de l’an passé; un des premiers textes savants portant sur le sujet. Durant ce long processus de traduction, j’ai pu me familiariser avec la pensée de Nakazawa, plus précisément en ce qui concerne son interprétation du “boom” du jeu vidéo au Japon. À l’origine spécialiste du Bouddhisme tibétain, Nakazawa consacrât une partie de sa carrière à étudier d’abord les jeux d’arcade dans lesquels il voyait une nouvelle forme de textes mythopoétiques, et par la suite le jeu vidéo en général tout en restant à l’affut des derniers développements en la matière à une époque où tout ce qui s’apparentait aux jeux électroniques était largement diabolisé. Son angle d’approche est singulier; dans Game Freaks Play with Bugs, Nakazawa compare Xevious à un texte religieux.

4101290121

Avec la récente sortie de Pokémon Go, il est de mise de jeter un coup d’oeil aux écrits de Nakazawa concernant la série Pokémon. J’ai récemment pris le temps de me familiariser avec La naturalité dans la poche (Poketto no naka no yasei) lors de ces dernières semaines, un ouvrage traitant principalement des premiers jeux de la série à travers le prisme de la psychanalyse. Pour l’auteur, Pokémon, une adaptation électronique de l’activité enfantine populaire au Japon de la chasse aux insectes, est une fenêtre vers le monde de la pensée sauvage à travers de ce qu’il appelle les “sciences de l’enfance”. Ces “sciences”, d’après Nakazawa, permettent aux enfants d’approcher le monde qui les entourent à leur manière au-delà des contraintes sociales, et, surtout, du système du language et de l’inévitable chute du sens. De quelle façon? Pour Nakazawa, le Pokémon représente l’objet a dans psychanalyse Lacanienne, cet objet insaisissable et en constante mutation qui représente le désir symbolique (le manque), mais dont l’acquisition réelle ne peut jamais vraiment s’accomplir. Ne pas réaliser que cette quête de l’objet a est impossible serait à la base de plusieurs trouble psychanalytique et du développement du “moi”.

Pour Nakazawa, les Pokémon (dans leurs formes diverses) représentent l’objet a, mais leurs conceptions leur permettent de transcender les problèmes normalement associés à la quête de l’objet a. Les Pokémon ne sont jamais directement possédés, ils sont stockés dans un espace virtuel (la pokéball) où ils sont à la fois présents, mais distants. Lors de la capture, ils sont transformés en information pure dans le pokédex. Nakazawa explique que cette situation permet aux enfants d’apprivoiser la distance entre l’objet a et eux-mêmes, et que cette situation est en fait le but du jeu (attrapez-les tous, complétez l’encyclopédie). Ce dernier élément est associé au principe de pensée sauvage de Lévis-Strauss, principe voulant que les sociétés primitives (ou les enfants dans ce cas-ci) approchent la compréhension de leur environment par l’observation directe, et non en applicant des théories aux manifestations de la nature. La science des Pokémon comme une économie du savoir est ici associée à la pensée sauvage en raison des stratégies dont les enfants doivent se doter afin de bien naviguer le jeu (habitats des différents types de Pokémon, affinités et faiblesses, etc.) mais aussi lors d’échanges avec d’autres enfants (négociations et communication).

L’autre noyau important du jeu, et celui qui permet de transcender le régime du language imposé par la société, c’est l’échange de Pokémon. Chaque Pokémon est unique. Élever et nommer un Pokémon permet à l’enfant de laisser une trace de lui-même sur chaque monstre, et, lors d’échanges, ces informations se déplacent de console à console. Puisque ces créatures n’ont pas de valeurs pré-établies, ces échanges se fondent davantage sur le contact direct avec autrui. L’échange de Pokémon, selon Nakazawa, est un processus de communication sophistiqué et de grande profondeur invitant l’enfant à véritablement interagir avec l’autre sans autre interférence socio-économique externe. Échanger c’est un peu accepter l’autre. Nakazawa y voit une forme d’affranchissement de la société de consommation contemporaine contribuant au sain développement d’une psyché personnelle durant l’enfance.

pokemon-go-zubat

Considérant l’enthousiasme avec laquelle la sortie de Pokémon Go fut accueillie au État-Unis, il est évident que le public de la série ne se limite plus aux enfants, et que la chasse à l’objet Pokémon captive bon nombre de gens dans la vingtaine avancée, et ce malgré l’incompréhension de certains. Mais cette fois, la pensée sauvage devra s’exercer à travers une technologie qui est à son meilleur en milieu urbain, et commercialisé. Le jeu n’est pas encore disponible au Canada, mais déjà la lecture du texte de Nakazawa permet de questionner le phénomène sous l’angle de la psychanalyse: jusqu’à quel point il est possible “d’augmenter” le monde réel tout en respectant la capacité du jeu à soutenir le développement émergent d’une science de l’enfance et, du même coup, générer l’intérêt à développer une plus grande conscience de l’environnement direct chez les joueurs? Les Zubat éliront-ils domicile dans une véritable grotte, dans une ruelle de Parc-Extension ou devant une franchise de Poulet Frit Kentucky? Ou alors dans tout ces endroits à la fois?

 

Digital Scholarship in the Humanities Guidelines

I could not attend Congress this year, but my colleagues from the University of Alberta had the chance to present the latest updates of our twitter analysis project that our research group worked on during the past year. I am glad this project continues to reach the broader academic community once again.

Geoffrey Rockwell shared a document of interest following the conference. The Digital Scholarship in the Humanities Guideline document was presented at this year at the CSDH/SCHN conference as a document to help the academic community to establish guidelines regarding the evaluation of work in the digital humanities that takes forms other than papers or articles. This is worth reading for any students working in the humanities looking to submit DH projects as part of the requirements of their degree, as well as instructors who have to review or mark them.

Cleaning up the Chirashi Database

I have not been feeding this blog properly for a little while now. Since my return to Edmonton, I have been working exclusively on my dissertation; the objective is to get the first chapter done before the start of the next round of conference travels in Montréal and Leipzig. I will share my thoughts on this aspect of the project one it becomes clearer to me.

In the meantime, I have been working on cleaning up the Chirashi database. As it stood, the file names were not rational, and finding a specific document without the use of the php interface was difficult. I now have a document naming protocol which should help streamline the integration of the documents I acquired since January. Look forward to another announcement about that in the near future.

Virtua Fighter: A Tale of Two Cabinets

Released on December 6 1993, Virtua Fighter was the most popular fighting game of 1994; it was far ahead of its competition (Super Street Fighter II) on the technical front, and made a big impression amongst gamers and journalists. However, the game was what we can call a “late bloomer” in the game center industry. While typical successful titles hit the top position in popularity charts almost at the moment of their release, Virtua Fighter staying under the radar for about a month after its release. A lot of factors may explain this, but according to some research in RCGS’s archives, the design of the cabinet into which the game was installed played a significant role.

It has become clear to me that Virtua Fighter is a good example to put emphasis on the relation between social affordances and cabinet design; the game ran onto two different cabinet designs implemented at different times, but that were still present in games centers in parallel to each other. One can make the case that each had its own role to attract different audiences, and that these cabinets generated different affordances that resonated well with certain crowds. In other words, the play experience and the social affordances that these two models generated were completely different.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 7.11.05 PM

Super Megalo 50 (picture from Virtua Fighter Maniacs)

Virtua Fighter was first released on a modified version of the Super Megalo 50, a very large cabinet made of two distinct parts: a 50-inch screen and a separate installation that combined both the commands and the seats. The two parts could be placed at various distances from each other. Essentially, two players would sit side-by-side and battle each other within a relatively close space. When the game was first released in this fashion, advertisement campaigns publicized the cabinet’s impressive screen size as much as the game’s technical innovations (the first polygon-based fighting game).

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 7.11.15 PM

Astrocity 2 (picture from Virtua Fighter Maniacs)

A month later, Sega released Virtua Fighter for a modified version of the Astrocity 2 cabinet, a standard competition cabinet (taisendai). The screen was much smaller and a separate bench was required to play, and while two sets of controls were installed on the machine, it was more commonly in tandem with another similar unit installed directly behind the cabinet. Both machines were connected via network, and players could play together on two different units. It is at this point that Virtua Fighter took game centers by storm, and dominated the fighting game scene until November of 1994.

According to Game Machine (which ranks games according to the number of machine sold and the general “impression” expressed by the operators surveyed), the evolution of the bimonthly raking of Virtua Fighter is very different according to the cabinet it was shipped in. The Super Megalo 50 version started in first position in the first week, but dropped to second place two weeks after, never to recover again. Game Machine ranks games according to cabinet type and provides a better idea than Coin Journal‘s monthly ranking, which does not make any distinction between them (its ranking system is also very subjective, but that’s a story for another day). However, the latter conducts more precise interviews with operators, and in a specific interview, the reporter states that the introduction of the Astrocity 2 version of the game, along with a slightly better presence in game centers, turned the title from a moderately interesting game to a great crowd pleaser, and that, a month after the release of the second cabinet. A look at Game Machine‘s 1994 ranking confirms that the Astrocity 2 version remains in top position during the year, while the Super Megalo 50 gradually drops lower in the top 15 in its category (it would come back in first position only for two weeks in June of that year).

This story is confirmed in many players and journalist’s accounts of the era where one can read that sitting on a single bench at a machine was a little embarrassing with strangers, especially when matches were one sided. While no sources directly confirms it, it is reasonable to assume that a very different type of crowds made use of the Super Megal0 50 version of Virtua Fighter, people whose purpose in going to the arcade (their “trajectories” as Doreen Massey) was much more compatible with the social affordances of the machine (users’ responses to close-proximity play and its high potential for performing to a crowd is more adapted to players familiar with their opponent). These would have been very different than the socialization patterns that normally characterize game cabinets when the identity of the opponent is often unknown. This is most likely why “power gamers” and beginners felt uneasy using the bigger cabinet; while the game was similar, the social affordances of the cabinet designs were very different.

 

Field Research At Ritsumeikan University

sshrc_logo_enritsumeikan-yoko

The research for my PhD project on Japanese game centers has officially started.

Two weeks ago I received word from SSHRC informing me that my request for the Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements available only to Joseph-Armand Bombardier Doctoral Fellowship recipients was finally granted. This means that I will be in Japan from January to April 2016 to conduct the final steps of my field research before I can start working on the project properly.

From January to March, I will stay in Kyoto in order to work with my research trip supervisor Prof. Koichi Hosoi on his arcade game preservation project. There, I will follow the most recent trends on arcade game preservation in Japan and I will have access to all sorts of material (cabinets, magazines, photographs, …) that will help develop some of the arguments in my own thesis. I also hope to be able to talk to both academics and industry people in the project.

I plan to write weekly reports of this three-month adventure on this blog to share discoveries and thoughts. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to let me know if you are in either Kyoto or Tokyo next year!